Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna, pioneer of Andhra classical dances

Geetam Nrittam tatha Vadyam prastaragamaana kriya!

Etani pancha yo vetti sa acharyah prakirtitah!

Uhapohan matischaiva smritimedha tathaivacha!

Sishya nishpadanam chaiva shadacharya gunah smritah!

– Natyasastra Chapter 26

According to Natyasastra of Bharatamuni, an Acharya must possess the qualities of having complete knowledge of Music (Svarajnana) Nritta, the movements called angaharas etc. Instrumental music (Chaturvidha Atodyamulu) the tala system and playing the tala according to the character in different gatis and he must also possess the visualisation of the poetry and story. He must possess great retentiveness and scholarship to grasp the subject and he has to enlighten the intellectual qualities of the students by his great intellectual ability. All these characteristics can be seen in Padma Shri Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna, who is the pioneer of Andhra classical dances. 

During his search for fulfilment of his inner urge for dance he came across great gurus like Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Nayudupeta Rajamma, Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry and Pendyela Satyabhama under whom he learnt various forms of dance. He says that the four Gurus are like four Vedas for him. Smt. Nayudupeta Rajamma, who was a devaganika of Sri Kalahasti temple was a great scholar of Agamanartanam and Satvikabhinayam. She was the Guru who inspired him to learn Agama dance tradition with great exposer of Nada upasana, the relation between the sound and vibration, its impact on the human body, the dance movement, etc., He learnt Satvikabhinayam and Agama Nartana Sampradayam from Smt. Rajamma.

Dr. Nataraja traversed in all the traditions of dance art in India, studied and practised them. His ceaseless efforts and urge to search and to prove the cultural heritage of Telugu people by the medium of dance which is a powerful medium of expression became fruitful. As an innovator, he recreated the Perini Siva Tandavam as one of the vigorous, majestic male dances by his extensive study and understanding of the 12th Century dance treatise, the Nrittaratnavalli of Jayasenapati. Nataraja says, “Perini is a derivative of the word Prerenal meaning invocation, is a dance dedicated to Lord Siva, who is the Supreme dancer. This is a group dance where the dancers moving according to the rhythm, go into a trance, and imbibe the power of Siva into their bodies. While invoking Lord Siva, a Perini dancer says, I give you my body, come into me, and dance through me”.

Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna encouraged the propagation of the folk arts like – Chindu Yakshaganam, Turpu Bhagavatham, Veeranatyam, Garagalu, Tappetaguluu, Guravayyalu, Veedhibhagavathulu, Urumulu etc., of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh. His services to Andhra Natyam, the Lasaya dance tradition, apart from other dance traditions in bringing into limelight of its splendour occupy first place. As a pioneer of Andhra classical dance, he had to strive hard in contacting the female artistes of the yore, who were great scholars in Bharatam i.e., Nritta, Nritya, Abhinaya. With the help of Late Smt. Annabattula Bulivenkataratnamma he could bring together the artists who were reluctant to participate in the seminar of Rajahmundry in 1970.

As an enthusiastic Guru, he taught dance free of cost to all those who could not afford to pay. He even gave free food and shelter to deserving disciples. In Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna’s words, Lord Natraja has three eyes – the left eye is Andhra Natyam, the right eye is Kuchipudi and the middle one is Perini Sivatandavam.

I offer my pranams to my Guru Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna Garu for his teachings and life principles.

– Dr. K Suvarchala Devi    

5 thoughts on “Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna, pioneer of Andhra classical dances”

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